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Unwanted Attention

Two crocodiles and prey

We start 2009 with one of our own pictures, featuring a mammal that has probably never had so much attention in its life. Or when it was alive, more to the point. This is Smaug and Esther, a pair of adult saltwater crocodiles (C. porosus) that have been living together in captivity for well over two decades. So it is interesting to see how they behave towards one another during feeding time. Saltwater crocodiles are very competitive creatures - we know this because that's what everyone has been telling us for years. However, when you spend a little more time with them you begin to suspect there is more going on than initially meets the eye. Case in point, Smaug had already eaten half of this carcass and yet when Esther moved across to take her share she was having considerable difficulty with it. Smaug responded by gently taking the carcass off her and slowly swimming around in circles with it. At first glance it appeared as though he was simply being greedy and attempting to take another bite (by flicking the carcass so that pieces tear off it) but he was allowing Esther to bite onto the carcass and then roll. It certainly appeared that Smaug was holding the food, anchoring it in place so that Esther could tear off a piece herself. She was too small to perform a head flick by herself, but by cooperating she was able to feed.

A sceptic would point out that we were leaping to conclusions based on limited evidence and a desire to see behaviour than wasn't there. Perhaps the sceptic would be correct. But the curious and open-minded part of me points out that such behavious is well known in other, more social species, and we know far less about crocodile behaviour than we'd like to think.



Would you like to enter your best photograph as a potential Pic of the Month? Send it to me and I'll include the best here each month. The very best photos at the end of the year usually receive a prize - something small but suitably crocodilian. To be in contention the picture must, above all, capture your attention.


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